Leaked memo shows White House considered using National Guard to round up undocumented immigrants

Sean Spicer

Screengrab via PBS NewsHour/YouTube

Sean Spicer called it ‘100 percent false.’ It’s not.

The Trump administration on Friday swiftly denied an Associated Press report revealing an explosive draft presidential memorandum that would enable up to 100,000 National Guard troops to round up undocumented immigrants across the United States.

“This is not true,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, tweeted. “DHS also confirms it is 100% false.” Spicer also reportedly confronted an AP reporter immediately following the AP’s tweet about the story, lamenting the publication for not asking the White House to comment before publishing.

“That is 100 percent not true. It is false. It is irresponsible to be saying this,” Spicer said, according to the White House pool report. “There is no effort at all to round up, to use the National Guard to round up illegal immigrants. … I wish you guys had asked before you tweeted.”

The reporter said they did try to contact the White House multiple times but never received a response—until after publication.

Less than an hour after Spicer posted that denial, however, DHS confirmed that the draft memo is, in fact, real, but that the government never considered acting on the plan to corral undocumented immigrants en masse. Careful readers will note that Spicer did not deny the existence of the draft but did deny any active “effort.”

The White House’s post-publication denial creates an environment for the Trump administration and supporters of President Donald Trump to claim the media is peddling in falsehoods. The AP report comes one day after Trump lamented the news media as “fake” during an hour-long press conference while also condemning the “absolutely real” leaks emanating from the U.S. government.

The document, dated Jan. 25 and addressed to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, appears to be a supplement aimed at providing guidance for putting into effect the executive order on immigration also signed by the president that day—initiating the controversial travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries.

Most strikingly, the 11-page memo, written by Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, proposes the vast expansion and militarization of immigration enforcement through the inclusion of National Guard troops from 11 states. This would be facilitated by a state-federal partnership program that would authorize the troops “to perform the functions of an immigration officer in relation to the investigation, apprehension, and detention of aliens in the United States.”

Portion of the draft memo that pertains to the National Guard deputization

Portion of the draft memo that pertains to the National Guard deputization


The program would include the four states along the U.S.-Mexico border—California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas—as well as seven states bordered with them. Under the proposal, state governors would have a choice whether to include their guard troops, who would remain under state and not national control.

Pew Research Center estimates that the area targeted is home to around half of the 11 million undocumented individuals who live in the U.S.

National Guard troops have participated in immigration missions before along the southern border, although they are most frequently deployed to help following natural disasters. This would be the first time that such an action was extended to the north of border states and at such an exceptional scale.

Read the full draft memo here.

Andrew Couts

Andrew Couts

Andrew Couts is the former editor of Layer 8, a section dedicated to the intersection of the Internet and the state—and the gaps in between. Prior to the Daily Dot, Couts served as features editor and features writer for Digital Trends, associate editor of TheWeek.com, and associate editor at Maxim magazine. When he’s not working, Couts can be found hiking with his German shepherds or blasting around on motorcycles.

David Gilmour

David Gilmour

David Gilmour is a reporter who specializes in national politics, internet culture, and technology. He previously covered civil liberties, crime, and politics for Vice.